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Selinger removes Melnick from caucus

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Premier Greg Selinger has kicked former cabinet minister Christine Melnick out of the NDP caucus.

He made the announcement after a caucus meeting that ran more than half an hour longer than expected.

Selinger, surrounded by several party stalwarts, told a news conference his decision was broadly supported by caucus, although he refused to say whether there was unanimity at the meeting.

Melnick was not in attendance, although the premier said he called her afterwards to inform her of his decision.

When reached by phone today, Melnick said she knew that when she spoke out that she could face expulsion from caucus.

"I went into this with my eyes wide open, knowing that it would be a possibility," she said. "The premier has made a decision to remove me from caucus and that’s his decision."

As for Selinger’s rejection that his staff directed Melnick and her department to send invitations to immigrant groups to an event at the legislature, the Riel MLA said: "I stand by what I said (Monday). I documented what happened. I can’t answer for the premier."

Melnick said on Monday that the premier’s senior political staff had directed her and her department to invite members of the immigrant community to a legislative debate in April 2012. She accused the premier’s senior aides of making her the scapegoat to protect the premier from criticism.

Selinger rejected this, saying Melnick acted on her own and directed her staff to issue the invitation. He said because of her refusal to take responsibility for her actions, Melnick has "lost the confidence of myself and caucus. That’s why I’ve come to the regretful decision to remove Chris Melnick from the government caucus today."

Selinger added: "My expectation as leader of the government and this party is that when you make a mistake you take responsibility for it and make it right. Ms. Melnick has been given many opportunities to do that and has not so far done so."

Deputy Opposition Leader Heather Stefanson said Selinger did not go far enough in booting Melnick out of caucus.

She said the Progressive Conservatives are calling for the government to call a special meeting of the committee of the Manitoba legislature that has three conditions: equal representation from both Tories and NDP and includes Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard; no restrictions on who is called before the committee and that all testimony is under oath.

Stefanson said the committee should also have the power of subpoena.

"This is the best way to get to the bottom of seeing see how deep and how wide this crisis of integrity goes within the NDP government," she said.

Stefanson said Selinger should call the committee in the best interests of the province.

"I would think that if he has the best interests of Manitobans in mind, he would jump on this," she said. "What happens within the NDP caucus is of no interest to me. I have concern about Manitoba."


Updated on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 11:30 AM CST: Updates new time for press conference.

12:58 PM: Updates with full writethru

1:08 PM: Updates with comments from Heather Stefanson

1:19 PM: Adds fresh picture.

4:08 PM: Adds quotes from Christine Melnick.

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